The Social Media Report #10
A look at the week's news at the intersection of social media and society
Welcome to the latest edition of The Social Media Report, a review of the week’s developments in technology, digital and social media. In this edition we take a look at the major news of this week, Facebook’s potential break-up at the hands of US regulators, and a rundown of my must reads from this week.
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The week in review
FTC moves to break up Facebook: this week saw the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) call for Facebook’s acquisitions of Instagram and WhatsApp to be unwound, on the grounds that they have created an anti monopolistic power in social media, and that Facebook’s very model harms democracy, business, the public. With senators now stating they wish for Facebook to be broken up, and for social media to be differently regulated, what comes next will be a battle between the world’s largest social network and the law makers.
Facebook appears to be on the back foot here. Some very terse tweets, which are extremely unlike Facebook, and also not best practice for any brand to state publicly, let alone at times like this. And independent lawyers reference some damning evidence in emails from the social network which show how focused the company was on acquire to kill tactics, as presented by Casey Newton.
Facebook’s ad revenue last year was £70bn, and Instagram’s was $20bn. Furthermore, WhatsApp processes 100bn messages a day, and Facebook plans to monetise the messaging app through facilitating business transactions. It’s clear that, were Instagram and WhatsApp to be broken out from Facebook, this isn’t just taking petrol out of the tank, it’s taking the engine out of the bonnet.
In the months and maybe years ahead, we should be prepared for an almighty tightening of regulation - in particular in Europe, where separate regulation is in the works, including this week in the UK alone - around not only how social networks derive growth through acquisition, but of social media content itself, too.
Social media trends for 2021: Battenhall trends briefing event took place this week.
On Friday, my colleagues Jonny Atter (above) Steph Bennett and I presented our social media trends predictions for 2021. In the first of a set of showings, I’ll call them (live, online, non-recorded events, repeated for different time zones) we revealed our lates data and insights into social media user behaviours, demographics, brand benchmarks and predictions for the year ahead.
Highlights from the data, which is being released in full this week, include insights into the increase in use of Instagram’s features Reels and Live video, in addition to the balance between Stories and Feed activity amongst the best-performing profiles on Instagram.
This event takes place again on Tuesday 15 December, and the latest Battenhall social media report, the Instagram Brands 100, will be available to download from 16 December on battenhall.com/publications.
My must reads from this week
On to the most interesting stories that I have been reading this week.
Facebook’s plans to monetise WhatsApp: through facilitating business transactions.
Facebook launches Shopping in Instagram Reels: rolls out globally in its TikTok function clone, allowing businesses and creators tag products for purchase when they create Reels.
Twitter has bought a screen sharing app Squad: could be used for group calls and/or video collaborations similar to Instagram and TikTok.
Diversity in TikTok content houses globally: Taylor Lorenz looks at the diversity or lack thereof in the creator houses movement: “People ask a lot, where are the Black creator mansions? They're in Atlanta.”
Content guidelines come to Twitch: NY Times reports that the game streaming site unveils new guidelines to crack down on hateful conduct.
Post-election, a series of disgruntled departures at Facebook: a trend at Facebook is for staff to leave the company and ‘torch it’ in their departure email.
China’s tech giants revolutionise online grocery: brands such as Didi Chuxing offer community group buying where households pool orders to buy directly from farms.
Chinese-owned no-fee stock trading app Webull: shows growth in particular in the US, with over 2m users.
Tech & legislation
UK government to announce new social media regulation on Tuesday: according to The Times, government ministers will announce plans on Tuesday for "a statutory duty of care, which will be enforced by Ofcom, the broadcasting regulator.”
Salesforce buying Slack could also be anti-competitive: a great piece by Fast Company: “The dark reality behind Slack’s billion-dollar sale to Salesforce - Slack wanted to stay independent. But in a landscape dominated by tech giants, that proved impossible.”
Tech funding in Europe hits record highs: European tech startups set to receive $41B in venture capital funding in 2020.
Robots: Boston Dynamics, the company best known for its terrifying dog-like robots, and formerly owned by Google’s Alphabet Group, has been acquired by Hyundai. This at last makes sense for the robotics industry leader, and could herald a near future of more widely-available robots.
SpaceX launches second rocket to the international space station: the mission is all about science experiments taken to the ISS.
Much has been made of space colonisation this week, largely down to the progress from Elon Musk’s SpaceX. Musk makes a big deal of his plans to not only colonise, but also rule and make his own laws on Mars. Moonshots like this benefit SpaceX hugely, but with advances in space technology, such lofty aims become increasingly realistic prospects.
The Social Media Report is written by Drew Benvie, founder & CEO of Battenhall, The Drum, CIPR and GDXA’s social media consultancy of the year 2020.
You can follow The Social Media Report on Twitter at @TheSMReport.
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